Iceland is out to end its gender pay gap. Can the U.S. follow?

Iceland is out to end its gender pay gap. Can the U.S. follow?

- in US

More than half a century after the Equal Pay Act became law, a woman in the United States earns on average just 79 cents for every dollar a man makes — a stubborn gap that is expected to persist until 2059.

But one country is determined to end such income disparity, whatever it takes.

Iceland, the rugged but progressive island nation between north America and northern Europe, this month became the first country to force employers to prove that they are paying men and women the same for similar work, or face a fine.

It wants to completely eliminate the pay gap within five years, and already requires company boardrooms to have at least 40 percent female representation by law. What can the U.S. learn from its approach?

As in most developed economies, America has equal pay laws — the first was signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 — yet it ranks 49th — behind the likes of Albania, Portugal and Uganda — in the World Economic Forum’s ranking of global gender pay gaps. Who was first? Iceland, again.

Image: A woman uses a pressure washer

Anna Oskarsdottir uses a pressure washer to clean ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano off the deck of her home in Vik, Iceland.